ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey’s high court overruled life sentences against three journalists, who were sentenced over alleged links to the network of U.S.-based cleric Fetullah Gulen, state-owned Anadolu news agency reported on Friday.
The Turkish court cleared journalist Ahmet Altan as well as Nazli Ilicak, both defendants in the same case, of charges related to violating the constitution, Anadolu reported.
However, the court maintained that Ahmet Altan and Ilicak aided the Gulen network, accused by Ankara of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt, the agency said.
The court also ruled to acquit journalist and brother Mehmet Altan from both charges including constitution violation and aiding the Gulen network, due to lack of sufficient and convincing evidence, Anadolu said.
A lower court will re-hear the cases against all three journalists following the higher court ruling.
All three were jailed shortly after the coup attempt, but Mehmet Altan was released pending appeal last year.
The case drew criticism from rights groups and Turkey’s Western allies over the post-coup crackdown and over erosion of judicial independence under President Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan’s government has jailed more than 77,000 people pending trial since the abortive putsch and widespread arrests are still routine in a crackdown critics say demonstrates growing autocracy in Turkey.
Some 150,000 people from the pubic and private sectors and military have also been sacked or suspended over alleged links to Gulen’s network.
U.S.-based Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennyslvania since 1999, and his followers deny coup-plotting.
Reporting by Can Sezer; Writing by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Andrew Cawthorne